Freewillism (2) Total Depravity

The second reason Calvinism rejects the entire notion of man having a free will is because Calvinism teaches that man is totally depraved. That is the first point in the famous acronym TULIP. Total depravity teaches that man is completely depraved; not just a bit here a bit there. His mind, thoughts, actions, emotions, feelings, and even his will is utterly depraved. This depravity is so severe that not only does man do no good, but he also actively and purposefully does evil. This means that man, apart from the grace of God, can never choose God. I intend to prove in this blog that the teaching of total depravity is a Biblical teaching.

Perhaps the most quoted verse regarding man’s depravity is Psalm 14:1 – 3 which says, “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.’’ Mankind is so corrupt, that the psalmist describes us as being filthy with sin. We do not even seek after God! That is how utterly depraved we are by nature. How then can man accept God into his heart or even invite Him into it?

Romans 1:28, describes the will of man as being reprobate, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” The word here for reprobate is αδοκιμον meaning depraved, debased. God gave them over to a depraved mind. To say that man’s will is good is to go directly against this verse. Further, Romans 8:7 says this concerning man’s will, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God.” First, man’s mind is carnal. The Greek word for carnal is σαρκος meaning fleshly, earthly in opposition to that which is heavenly and spiritual. That fleshly mind is enmity against God. The word enmity is εχθρα and could be translated as hostility or even antagonism. Paul is saying the carnal mind is the enemy against God.”

Going back to the Old Testament we read in Jeremiah 17:9, 10 that the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” We could go even farther to state that ever since the fall of mankind, his will has been corrupt. This is proven by the fact that Cain, who was the first born of Adam and Eve, killed his godly brother Abel. In addition, Genesis 6:5 states thus, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” His will is totally depraved, doing no good! In addition, Job 15:14 -16, states this concerning the state of the will of man “What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” He drinks sin like he drinks water. Guzzling it down and never being filled with it, he continually needs more and more to survive. That is how utterly sinful man is!

One final verse that I will quote is Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also go good, that are accustomed to do evil.” This verse slays the teaching of free will down to the ground and annihilates it. Just as an Ethiopian cannot change his skin, man cannot do good because he is evil! Augustus Toplady said, “A man’s free will cannot cure him even of the toothache, or sore finger; and yet he madly thinks it is in its power to cure his soul.”

Man’s will is totally depraved. All man does by nature is choose sin and wickedness. A will like that is bound to sin, it can do no other. Therefore, man’s will is not free but is bound to sin.

Freewillism (1) The Sovereignty of God

One of the fundamental teachings of Arminianism is that man has a free will. This teaching essentially says that man’s will is outside of the sovereignty of God. Thus, man is free to choose between believing in God and rejecting God. On the other hand, one of the fundamental teachings of Calvinism is the sovereignty of God over all things and thus man does not have a free will. Therefore the question that must be asked is: does the Bible teach that man has a free will? Calvinism says no, for several reasons, the one that will be considered in this post is God’s sovereignty.

First, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign over the creation. The miracles throughout the Bible point to this. The flood, the plagues of Egypt, the sun and moon standing still, and the walls of Jericho falling down are all acts of God’s sovereignty over the creation. The fact that God created the entire universe as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2 should imply that God is sovereign over all. After all He created it! Psalm 135:6, 7 says, “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, That did he in heaven, and in earth, In the seas, and all deep places. He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings for the rain; He bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, Both of man and beast.” It is God that is in control of all the acts of creation. He controls the weather, even death and life. It is all an act of God. Why should God, who is in control of creation, not be in control of our wills?

Second, the Bible explicitly teaches that God is in control of sin. The story of Joseph is a good example of that. In Genesis 50:20 we read, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” God was in sovereign control of the sin of the brothers of Joseph. God even made good come out of it. Acts 2:23 says, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Christ was not crucified by some random act of chance and vengeance. No, His crucifixion was an act of the sovereignty of God; an act that God had determined from before the world began, so that His Son might be glorified and that we might be saved. God determined that these people would sin and put Christ to death. Isaiah 63:17 explicitly says that God is sovereign over sin, “O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.” God even hardens man’s heart.  In Deuteronomy 2:30, we read of how God hardened the heart of Sihon, king of Heshbon. “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.” Further, God hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he would not let Israel leave Egypt. Why? So that the name of God might be honoured and glorified throughout the nations. That they might know that He is God. Why should God who hardens man’s heart not be in control of our wills?

That God is sovereignly in control over our salvation is taught throughout Scripture. Even before Jacob and Esau were born, He had determined who He loved and who He hated. Romans 9 refers to God as the Potter and we as the clay. He can do whatever He wants with us and the clay can say nothing in response. Because of this sovereignty Paul asks, “Is there unrighteousness with God?” The answer is, “God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Romans 9:15) We do not have a freewill. God has determined who He will have mercy on and whom He will harden.

In response to this some might argue that that makes God the author of sin, but that is absurd. James 1:13 – 14, states this, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Man is tempted by his own sinful nature, but God still sovereignly guides his sin but in such a way that He does not sin. Also, we must remember that God is a holy God, knowing no sin. Isaiah 6:3, states this about the holiness of God “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” God can do no sin, because he in infinitely holy. This is especially emphasised in Isaiah 6:3. When the Jews wanted to emphatically say something they repeated it. God is holy (the statement), holy (the confirmation), holy (the repetition). God cannot sin because He is completely devoted to Himself who is righteous. Therefore He in no way is the author of sin and does not sin in His sovereign control of all things.

Others might argue that this makes man a robot in the hands of God. God pushes a bunch of buttons and we do whatever He commands. But God works in such a way that man is not a robot. Man is not a machine with buttons that make him do certain things. He has a mind and will and he makes choices. Calvinism refutes the idea that man has a freewilll. Calvinism teaches that man does have a will; man even makes choices such as when to get up in the morning, what to have for breakfast etc. This is what we refer to as free agency. Even though God has sovereignly determined and controls all things in man’s life, man lives in such a way that he is unaware of that sovereign control. We are unaware of that sovereign control, but Scripture speaks plainly of it (Mat. 10:29 – 30). Since even the hairs of our head our numbered (a relatively insignificant thing) how much more should our wills be controlled (a very significant thing)?

Thus, God is sovereign over the will of man; man does not have a freewill. This should be a great comfort for us. Nothing can happen to us without the will of our heavenly Father. Even as earthly fathers take care of us, even so our heavenly Father takes care of us through His sovereign will. It would be a terrible thing to be outside the sovereignty of a holy God. But we have the comfort that not one of our hairs can fall to the ground without the will of our heavenly Father.

Martin Luther on Indulgences

An interesting artifact that I found in my research on Martin Luther. It is an unused Indulgence slip from 1515. It was issued by Albertus and blessed by Pope Leo X. The space several lines down was where the purchaser’s name would appear.

Indulgence

The sale of  Indulgences would move Luther to write his 95 Theses and publish them for debate in 1517. A bit about what he said concerning Indulgences in his Theses is quoted below.

31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.

32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them

34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental “satisfactions” decreed merely by man.

35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.

36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.

Rebaptism?

Should Christians practice rebaptism? Is there a Biblical basis for rebaptism? In my opinion there should be no rebaptism as there is no Biblical basis for it. But before I get into my arguments against rebaptism, I will give a brief history concerning it.

Contrary to what many people believe, the Anabaptists (meaning rebaptism) were not the first group to practise it. The first group that practised rebaptism was the Novatians around the 250s AD. They formed chiefly out of the problem of church discipline. During the Roman Decian persecutions, people recanted their belief in Christ. After the persecution was over, they wanted to return to the church. Should they just be allowed back into the church? Novatian, who was elected Bishop of Rome said “No!” If they wanted to come back into the church, they would have to go under strict discipline and self-examination. Most of the rest of the church said they could be readmitted. So Novatian was deposed as bishop. In reaction to this, Novatian created his own church composed of those known as the Catharoi (the pure). They demanded that those coming from the other Christian churches in their day, be rebaptised in order to become part of the Catharoi.

Another group that supported rebaptism was the Donatists around the 300s. They formed out of the same controversy the Novatians did, except this time it was regarding lapsed Christians during the Diocletian persecution. After arguing and fighting the Donatists created their own church system that called for the rebaptism of its members.

Some 1000 years later the Anabaptists appeared in response to not only the Roman Catholic Church but also the Lutherans and Zwinglians. They thought that the Reformers were not going far enough in their rejection of Roman Catholic doctrine. So they threw out infant baptism and did not consider the baptism of their theological opponents to be valid, so they called for rebaptism.

They supported their claims for rebaptism on Acts 19:1 – 6, which says, “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”  The argument of those who purport rebaptism is Paul rebaptised the disciples of John; anyone can see that from the text. I agree that a very quick glance at the text says that. But quick glances often contain error.

This passage is not speaking concerning water baptism, but is speaking of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the focus of the passage. It is striking that the first thing Paul asks John’s disciples is “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” The question is not have you received the baptism of repentance? (The baptism of repentance is the baptism that John the Baptist and Christ both gave. Both baptisms symbolised the exact same thing, namely the washing away of sin and purification from sin by the blood of Christ.) The question Paul asked is have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? John prophesied that Christ would baptise with the Holy Ghost and with fire. John’s disciples had already received the baptism of repentance from John. They were waiting for the fulfillment of John’s prophesy concerning Christ’s baptism. Paul is here to fulfill that prophesy personally for them.

Further, Acts 19 says that, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them . . .” When is not in the original Greek, it is an implied word that is used to denote the tense of the participle laid. The word after could also be used. “And after Paul had laid his hands . . .” In my opinion after implies more of a clarifying of the previous verses. So the preceding verses speak of the baptism and then verse six implies how Paul performed the baptism. But whether after or when is used the idea behind the two words is that of clarifying. This act of clarifying is in harmony with the Jewish mode of speaking. First the general account is given and then it is further clarified. This mode of speaking is throughout the Bible, if you want examples of it look in Revelations.

Also, the laying on of hands is in agreement with the baptism of the Holy Spirit as Acts 8:17 makes clear, “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”

But even if you do not agree with this interpretation, there is no warrant for the rebaptism that goes on today. Besides Acts 19, the only other reason given for rebaptism that I have heard is that, “I do not remember being baptised as an infant.” So the person is rebaptised so that he remembers it. The problem with that is that these people were already baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost! They already received Christ’s baptism! Acts 19 does not come into effect here even if you think it was water baptism. Most of the people who are baptized today were already baptised in the name of Christ. Even if you disagree with the doctrine of the church where the person was baptised, or even the concern of corrupt clergy, you cannot deny that the person was baptised with Christ’s baptism. That is because it is not the clergy or the church that performs the true baptism; it is God that performs it! Baptism is just a picture of the much better spiritual reality of the baptism of the heart that God works in us.

Therefore, rebaptism is wrong. The Scriptures only call for one baptism. Just as we cannot be regenerated twice, we should not be rebaptized. Baptism is a one-time event that pictures that we have been regenerated and changed into a new creature by the washing and purging away of our sins through the blood of Christ. To close with John Calvin, he wrote a section on John 19 in his Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 4, Chapter 15, Section 18, part of which I quote here, “‘And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them.’ In this last sentence is described what the nature of the baptism was. But if ignorance vitiates a former, and requires to be corrected by a second baptism, the apostles should first of all have been rebaptised, since for more than three full years after their baptism they had scarcely received any slender portion of purer doctrine. Then so numerous being the acts of ignorance which by the mercy of God are daily corrected in us, what rivers would suffice for so many repeated baptisms?”

The Christian Fish

I am sure everyone is aware that a fish is a sign for Christianity. But why? It is not because of the miracles of feeding the five thousand, the fish with the coin, the great catch of fish, or even the disciples being fishers of men. It is a sign for Christianity because the word fish in Greek is an acronym for Christian beliefs. The word in the Greek is Ιχθυς (ich thys) meaning:

Ι Ιησους Jesus

Χ Χριστος Christ

Θ θεος God

υ υιος Son

ς σωτηρ Saviour

So the word fish is an acronym for some of the key doctrines in Christianity. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who is the savior. You have Christ’s divinity, His place in the trinity, and His work as a saviour. Just a little tidbit from church history, but pretty interesting once you stop to think about it.

While We Were Yet Sinners

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6 – 8

What striking and wondrous words! I do not know of any verse that shows God’s great love for His people than this one. Christ says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” There are stories throughout history of men dying for their friends. These stories are especially prevalent among soldiers. One example is Company Sergeant-Major John Osborn who jumped on a grenade during a Japanese attack in Hong Kong. He died saving the lives of his men. A man will die for those he loves. He will die for the righteous man, even for the good man.

But who wants to die for criminals and sinners? Who wants to die for those that hate him, and want nothing to do with him? God did. Christ died for us while we were ungodly and sinners!  We hated him and would have rather continued in our sins then confess that He is Lord. Not only did He die for us, but He suffered the severe torments of hell for our sake. He did this so that He could earn a place for us in the sight of God and justify us before the law of Jehovah. That is the love of God! Nothing compares to it in history. Man has died so that his fellow man could continue to live on this earth. But Christ died so that we could live forever in eternity with God.

What thankfulness we owe God for this! Most of those classified as Christians today have no problem living a life that is similar to the world. But what person, who has received such a great benefit will want to keep doing the very things that God hates? A true Christian will live a life that is in conformity to the Word of God, because Christ has died for him while he was yet a sinner. Let us, by the grace of God, show our extreme thankfulness for the great love of God! Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (Revelations 5:12)